The Pope used his first speech in America to raise some of the issues that are likely to be the themes of his visit to the country: immigration, climate change, inequality and the family.
Arriving at the White House this morning in his small, Fiat car, the Pope was welcomed by President Obama and his wife Michelle.
Speaking in English, Francis began his speech by describing himself as the “son of an immigrant family” and that such families “largely built” the United States.
Immigration reform is a hot political topic in America and the Catholic Church in the United States has consistently called for change in this area.
This morning thousands of immigrant workers attended early morning Masses in the city and afterwards marched to the White House to see the Pope.
THE POPE IN THE US...
A key part of the speech was climate change and the Pope said he was encouraged by President Obama’s initiatives for reducing air pollution but that the “common home” of the world unfortunately overlooked millions of people. This group of excluded, he added, “cries out to heaven” for action to be taken.
The Pope then went on to quote Martin Luther King saying: ”We have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honour it.”
“Mr President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.
Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are "living at a critical moment of history”, the Pope said.
On Friday, Francis is due to address the United Nations which will on that day start discussing the need for global action on climate change through the ratification of new Sustainable Development Goals.
In his White House speech the Pope said that sustainable development must include care for the most vulnerable and to “mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family.”
Francis also stressed the importance of religious freedom in the United States - an issue that has been a priority for the American bishops - and that he will be travelling to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family.
For his part, President Obama lavished praise on the Pope as someone in whom “we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings.”
Pope Francis used the White House to lay down a manifesto for his US trip (PA)
The president recalled his social work with Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago and said that the he has seen the Church “feed the hungry, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, educate our children, and fortify the faith that sustains so many.”
He stressed that the United States stands with the Pope in the promotion of religious freedom around the world and lamented that “children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith.”
The President also thanked the Pope for his role in helping restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
While there are many issues that the President and the Pope agree on, the welcome ceremony did not make mention of the areas of disagreement between the Church and the Obama administration, namely same sex marriage and abortion.
Following the speeches and welcome ceremony the two world leaders retreated for their own private talks.
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